Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers

Heart, Humility, and the Most Holy Name

     

     Do you put more of your head or your heart into your prayers? While author Gary Jansen

acknowledges that you need the right balance, he suspects that over-intellectualizing prayer is a

common problem, so we need to focus more on the heart. And one way to do that is through

devotions.

     During a “Christopher Closeup” interview with me about his book, “Life Everlasting: Catholic  Devotions and Mysteries for the Everyday Seeker,” Jansen explained that his interest in devotions developed over the course of his own life. A self-described worrywart who was raised Catholic but not too steeped in the faith, he found relief from anxiety when someone introduced him to the writings of Thomas Merton. That led him to other writers like Henri Nouwen and Fulton Sheen. “The more I read what they were talking about, the more [I saw] they were dealing with their anxiety and fear and how to overcome it.”

     An experience with his young son also taught Jansen a lesson about responding to fear. The two of them went to the grounds of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Long Island years ago to walk around and play. As it started getting dark, Jansen held his son’s hand as they walked, and the boy said, “Dad, don’t let go. I’m afraid.”

Jansen recalled, “I’ve been frightened many times in my life, and [didn’t] reach out to my Father’s hand and say, ‘Abba, hold onto me. Don’t let me go.’ When you can [say], ‘God, hold my hand,’ it changes everything.”

The humility required to do that is part of the reason Jansen believes we sometimes need to let our hearts guide our heads. He views the Church as “a huge brain with a big heart,” but worries that over-intellectualizing prayer can keep us from reaping its benefits. He explained, “You could read tons of books, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever know anything more about God unless you have this personal experience along the way.”

     That’s where devotions, Scripture, and even biology come in: “When you think of devotions, you never see the sacred mind of Jesus; you see the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You don’t see the Immaculate Head of Mary; you see the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And when Gabriel comes to Mary and says, ‘You’re going to be the mother of God’...what happens? She ponders this in her heart. And think about this…When a fetus is developing, the first thing to develop is the heart. That happens about 14 days after conception. Another 14 days after that, that’s when the brain starts. So the heart is sending information that creates the brain…[Putting] the mind at ease through the power of devotion, through the power of heartfelt prayer and meditation, can revolutionize the way that you experience God.”

     So how can people start practicing devotions? Jansen said, “One of the things that works for me…is the Most Holy Name of Jesus devotion. You repeat the name of Jesus throughout the day and allow the supernatural power of Jesus’ name, the love that is embedded in that name, to be on your lips throughout the day. When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, repeat the name of Jesus over and over. It’s like thought substitution. Instead of worrying about stuff, repeat Jesus’ name...St. Paul said, ‘Pray ceaselessly.’ He didn’t really tell us how to do that, but I think the Devotion to the Most Holy Name is key to finding out how.”

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note ACCEPTING THAT GOD LOVES YOU, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org       

  

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